By the numbers: How activists organized to save Obamacare

Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower last Friday to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower last Friday to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

VICTORY LAPS. With the American Health Care Act apparently in the rearview mirror and the Affordable Care Act the law of the land for the foreseeable future, progressive and activist groups that helped fight the GOP Obamacare repeal effort are tallying up their contributions to the fight and reporting in. Five of the groups are responsible for facilitating more than 389,000 calls to Congress opposing the Ryan-Trump health coverage law, according to figures provided to Yahoo News.

That’s a huge number, but one that pales in comparison to the deluge of calls received by the Capitol switchboard during the confirmation hearings for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But where the fight against DeVos saw calls going to Democratic senators from some of the most populous U.S. states, the progressive anti-AHCA effort was concentrated on Republican members of the House.

Daily Action: Daily Action reports that it was responsible for more than 67,000 calls to Congress in defense of the Affordable Care Act — a total of 222,181 minutes’, or 154 days’, worth of conversations with staffers who picked up the phones. “The American people are not going to sit back, flip on ‘The Apprentice,’ and let President Trump and Republican leaders dismantle all the progress of the last eight years,” said founder Laura Moser in a statement. “The phones in congressional offices are ringing off the hook, and we are not going to let up.”

Daily Action is a daily text-messaging call-to-action service launched after the election to connect subscribers to members of Congress, using technology developed by Obama and Bernie Sanders campaign alumni.

Those who received the most call time included key Republican members of the House who rejected the ACA repeal bill, such as New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, — 293 calls, 953 minutes of calls — and Florida’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — 209 calls, 823 minutes of calls.

MoveOn: “MoveOn members made over 40,000 calls to Congress just today!” the group announced last Friday, the final day of the progressive stalwart group’s push to kill the AHCA bill. Founded in 1998, now has nearly two decades of experience in pushing back on a district-by-district basis against Republican efforts to undo entitlement programs, a technique the group used to great effect during the 2005 fight over George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization proposals. In addition to sending members to town halls throughout the year in 2017, MoveOn organized two days of stakeouts outside Republican congressional offices to oppose the AHCA the weekend before the bill died.

The Washington Post reported that phone calls opposing the bill ran 50 to 1 against calls supporting it, according to the offices of 13 members of Congress who were willing to provide figures. Critics of the GOP health care proposal included both progressives and many conservatives, many of whom argued that it didn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

Organizing for Action: The group organized by former President Barack Obama and his supporters that helped push for the Affordable Care Act in the first place says it held more than 1,000 events opposing its repeal in 43 states. It also claimed credit for more than 40,000 calls to members of Congress, along with more than 812,000 petition signatures. “It’s no accident that the House backed down from voting on the bill to repeal Obamacare — it’s because people like you got organized,” the group told its members after the AHCA bill was pulled.

Planned Parenthood: The group touted more than 122,000 phone calls made to members of Congress, more than 1,000 events held across the country, and 712,000 petition signatures submitted in opposition to the AHCA, which also would have denied people who use public insurance programs, such as Medicaid, the ability to use their insurance for visits to Planned Parenthood. “Last week alone, Planned Parenthood supporters, patients and advocates rallied in opposition to the bill in 60 events,” the group said in a statement.

On Wednesday, April 29, the group plans to hold “#PinkOut Day 2017” to rally supporters online and on Capitol Hill as part of its continuing fight against Republican efforts to cut off federal payments for patient visits to Planned Parenthood doctors.

5 Calls: Another call-connecting service, 5 Calls, told Yahoo News that “more than 120,000 calls on the ACA have been placed through 5 Calls since we launched Jan 17.” The group is not as narrowly focused as Daily Action, and provides subscribers with multiple daily topics to choose from. “Though people might follow a link to us to call about the ACA, they tend to find another topic that they’re also interested in and call on that as well,” said Nick O’Neill, a San Francisco-based mobile developer who co-founded the open-source code, volunteer-created group along with his wife.

On Tuesday, 5 Calls passed the million-call mark overall since launching.

Indivisible: “We don’t track number of calls made, but I can tell you that our 5,800 groups around the country made a huge impact in the fight to save the ACA,” Indivisible’s Sarah Dohl told Yahoo News. “The ACA was a major theme during the February recess where us and some of our partners estimate over 100,000 people took part in nearly 300 nationwide events.”

The group’s congressional district-level ACA data was accessed more than 75,000 times online, and its “Save the ACA” toolkit was accessed about 25,000 times.

Local Indivisible chapters targeted key Republicans who went on to oppose or raise questions about the House ACA repeal bill. In New Jersey, NJ 11th for Change went after Frelinghuysen — the powerful House Appropriations Committee chairman also targeted by Daily Action — repeatedly. For two months, the group organized a series of weekly “Fridays with Frelinghuysen” visits to oppose ACA repeal, and it also held four “empty chair” town halls during the last congressional recess. Frelinghuysen, a longtime critic of the ACA, broke with the president and announced he would not support the AHCA.

In Virginia, Indivisible VA-10 went after Rep. Barbara Comstock — a woman whose suburban Washington, D.C., seat has been a target of the Swing Left group seeking to unseat Republicans in swing districts, and the MoveOn stakeouts, as well. Indivisible VA-10 did “several office visits, mass call drives and a constituent town hall,” according to Dohl.

And in Arkansas, Ozark Indivisible “organized a huge showing at the Sen. [Tom] Cotton town hall where many constituents shared personal stories about what the ACA means to them,” said Dohl. “Ozark Indivisible’s first project when they formed was to push their [members of Congress] to have a town hall. After repeated pressure, Sen. Cotton finally planned a town hall and personally notified the group about it. He even called up Caitlynn Moses, the group leader of Ozark Indivisible, onto the stage to ask the first question at the town hall — she passed the question to another audience member.”

The Town Hall Project: The Town Hall Project “has researched and posted more than 400 town hall events hosted by over 170 members of Congress nationwide,” the group announced Tuesday. The volunteer-created directory of town halls has been a critical asset used by the other progressive groups to find and mobilize people to attend town halls, and it has worked closely with Indivisible and MoveOn.

“From the beginning of this process, the American people have been clear that they want an opportunity to be heard by their elected leaders before any votes on the AHCA,” Town Hall Project founder Jimmy Dahman said in a statement. “Across the country, the members of Congress who held town halls heard from constituents that would lose access to the critical care they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. This decision by Republican leadership to cancel the vote on the AHCA demonstrates the true power of citizens when they make their voice heard.”

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